Paid family leave legislation could be led by Democrats, Ivanka Trump says

Ivanka Trump. Credit: CBS News.

With the impeachment of President Trump dividing Capitol Hill, at least one policy has garnered collaboration between lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Championed by White House senior adviser Ivanka Trump, paid family leave policies are gaining traction in Congress, and legislation providing the benefit to American families has been one area of agreement between the White House and Democrats.

“The way I look at it is that the debate had grown stale,” Trump said in an interview with “Face the Nation” that aired Sunday. “If we want to deliver relief to working parents who need this, we need to come up with fresh, new solutions. So we’ve been working with Republicans, with Democrats on proposing alternatives.”

Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, said legislation ensuring paid leave “definitely could be” led by Democrats, and said progress on the issue is the result of “several years” of discussion among both parties.

“What has become incredible is that people aren’t debating anymore whether or not paid family leave is good policy,” she said. “They’re debating what’s the best policy.”

Much of Trump’s work in the White House has been focused on paid family leave policies and boosting investment in apprenticeship and skill-building programs. She scored a victory earlier this month when Congress passed an annual defense authorization bill that provided all federal workers with 12 weeks of paid parental leave.

Mr. Trump signed the defense measure during a ceremony at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland last week, with Ivanka Trump in attendance.

While the provision included in the legislation focused specifically on government employees, Trump said the “goal is to ensure that paid leave is available to all Americans.”

“It’s been the course of two and a half years of building our coalitions of support for this policy,” she said. “But we have made more progress on paid family leave than in the 25 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed.”

Transcript: Ivanka Trump on “Face the Nation,” December 29, 2019

The following is a transcript of Margaret Brennan’s interview with Ivanka Trump focusing on paid family leave taped December 19 at the CBS Washington Bureau.

MARGARET BRENNAN: That was adviser to the president and first daughter Ivanka Trump at a White House summit earlier this month, focusing on paid leave and child care. She joins us now to talk about that new federal employee paid leave policy and the path forward for other Americans. Good morning and thank you for coming in. Happy holidays to you.

IVANKA TRUMP: Thank you, to you as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now you have found an area of agreement with Speaker Pelosi who championed paid family leave. You worked to get Republicans on board with what just ended up in the NDAA, which is to guarantee government workers 12 weeks of paid leave.

TRUMP: This has been years of discussion and education on the- the merits of paid family leave grounded in conservative values of work and of family. And the reality is, the world has- has changed and it’s changed quickly. Today, women make up 47 percent of the workforce. Yet we provide the vast majority of unpaid care for children and- and, of course, adult dependents. And it is not acceptable that in America today, one in four women go back to work two weeks after having a child. It’s just not acceptable. We can’t tell the private sector to step up and to offer these critical benefits to their employees and not be willing to do it ourselves. And it’s taken time. It’s been the course of two and a half years of building our coalitions of support for this policy. But we have made more progress on paid family leave than in the 25 years since the Family and Medical Leave Act was passed. So you not only have this and this is huge, it’s a huge step forward in- in providing paid leave to all Americans, which is our ultimate objective. But we also, as part of tax reform, approved the first ever tax credit to employers offering leave to their employees making under seventy two thousand dollars a year, which are the people that are very, very unlikely to receive it. So incentivizing employers to- to step forward.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How did you get the Republican caucus to support these things? Because there has been Republican opposition to any kind of government mandate.

TRUMP: This is been, as I said, the accumulation of several years of- of discussion. When I first came to Washington, I was surprised at how few Democrats had taken their argument for the merit of paid leave to their colleagues across the aisle. So it really was starting from the beginning and talking about this policy and framing it in different terms. So Republicans didn’t want a payroll tax increase that disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable. So what are new solutions? We proposed the first ever bipartisan, bicameral plan that would allow people the flexibility to determine if they want to pull back- pull forward their child tax credit and then pay it back over 10 years. And by the way, paying it back over 10 years, they’d still receive an annual distribution that is dramatically higher than what they received prior to us passing tax reform.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you, though, just to clarify that- are you endorsing any of those bills?

TRUMP: So the way I have approached this from inception is the president has made very clear he thinks that this is critical policy. And now we are working with members on both sides of the aisle to see who has the right policy to move forward and to be able to garner the votes to pass this into law. I think what’s happening–

MARGARET BRENNAN: And that could be a Democratic lead bill–

TRUMP: This–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –but you would still support it?

TRUMP: It could be. It definitely could be. I think the- the option that has been put out there by the Democrats without even opining on- on- on the policy of it, it has sat there since 2012, has never been scored, has never received the endorsement of a president, including President Obama, and has never received bipartisan support from colleagues in the Senate. So the way I look at it is that the debate had grown stale. If we want to deliver relief to working parents who need this, we need to come up with new, fresh solutions. So we’ve been working with Republicans, with Democrats on proposing alternatives. And what has become incredible is that people aren’t debating anymore whether or not paid family leave is good policy. They’re debating what’s the best policy.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But what did just become law, just to clarify for people who don’t follow this the way- the way you do and what was tucked inside the NDAA, is 12 weeks of leave for people who either gave birth or- a woman or her partner, male or female, or if they adopted–

TRUMP: Adoptive parent–


TRUMP: Correct.


TRUMP: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: –caregiver. And with that, though, this was tucked inside in a way that some Republican senators said they didn’t get to fully vet this. And they have highlighted some flaws in it that the FAA or the TSA or people who work at the V.A., the veterans agencies, won’t receive full benefits. Can you guarantee for all government workers that that will be fixed that they will all receive twelve weeks?

TRUMP: The TSA is a flaw that applies to basically every benefit that members of Congress on both sides of the aisle have been working to fix. So it’s not specific to this particular benefit. This applies to the full federal workforce, understanding that- that is a meaningful glitch that has applied to many many things, for many many years and that we’re working to- to fix.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Will contractors get to receive the benefits? I think 4 out of 10 people work for the government are contractors.

TRUMP: It is- it applies to- to our workforce and under the same provision that all other benefits are administered. So it’s consistent with- with that.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you would like to expand it?

TRUMP: Oh, our goal is to ensure that paid leave is available to all Americans. But we’re putting forth new solutions. A payroll tax increase is not going to be passed into law anytime in the near future. So what are the other options? That’s why the Cassidy-Sinema bill is so interesting. It’s bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, in the Senate, and it provides people with flexibility. It is not a mandate on- on business. Oftentimes, small business cannot afford the mandate. So it creates flexibility and discretion for the benefit of the person who ultimately wants to use it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: How do you get a private business? You were in the private sector. You didn’t have a policy yourself in the beginning, but now you support it. How do you- do you ask everyone on your–

TRUMP: Well, in my own business–

MARGARET BRENNAN: –in your own business?

TRUMP: –after I had employees, I did. So I think what’s my- I – the fourth person I hired was pregnant when I hired her. So we put a policy in place for her. So everyone who’s ever had a baby at one of my companies has had access to- to- to leave. So that, you know, that’s something I recognizes as critically important. But I do think elevating awareness around the benefits to attracting and retaining the best talent this country has to offer. It is in companies self-interest to do this. And that’s why we’ve seen employers increasingly adopt paid leave. I had a conversation with Doug McMillan, the CEO of Walmart, about how important this policy was in the first year of the administration. Walmart adopted and expand upon their- their parental leave policies following tax reform. I got a call from- from Doug right after they announced the policy change and he said, you know, it was the most popular thing we did, even more than raising our wage, offering that benefit–

MARGARET BRENNAN: That’s interesting.

TRUMP: — because it’s incredibly valuable to families. But- but it is important to note that thinking about caring for the next generation, the most important resource in this country, and of course, the parents, it doesn’t stop at 12 weeks.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Whenever anyone hears you talk about the importance of being with your children, they also think about your personal- and you were vocal in your opposition to the family separation policy when it came to immigration–


MARGARET BRENNAN: — and the U.S. border. You said that was a low point for you.

TRUMP: Correct.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We went and looked and Homeland Security says there are still around 900 children who remain separated from their families. Is that something you continue to remain engaged on when it comes to immigration?

TRUMP: Well, immigration is not part of my portfolio, obviously. I think everyone should be engaged. And the full force of the U.S. government is- is committed to this effort to border security, to protecting the most vulnerable. That includes those being trafficked across our border, which this president has committed to countering and combating human trafficking in an incredibly comprehensive, aggressive way. So the full United States government has been focused on this issue, starting with the president.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Ivanka Trump, thank you very much for your time.

TRUMP: Thank you.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be right back with a lot more FACE THE NATION. So stay with us.

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